Authorities in the flood-hit Texan city of Houston have imposed a night curfew amid reports of looting incidents. The floods were triggered by heavy rains brought in by Hurricane Harvey that battered the US state over the weekend.
The hurricane and its aftermath have claimed a total of nine lives in the state, with the last fatality being reported in Beaumont, according to American Broadcasting Corporation.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the curfew on Tuesday (29 August) evening. The curfew will be in effect from midnight until 5am local time (11am BST). He has urged residents to avoid venturing out in the night unless extremely necessary. He also cautioned people to be vigilant about criminal gangs who were impersonating police officers and evacuating homes.
Meanwhile, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that the police department would stop assisting the search and rescue operation and instead focus on "going after criminals and keeping the good people of Houston safe". He said that many armed robbers and looters have already been arrested.
The Houston police had made over 3,500 rescues since the storm unleashed its fury over the city, but the department was still operating as a law enforcement agency and would not tolerate any criminal activities, he added.
"This is the state of Texas. We're a welcoming city, but we are not going to tolerate people victimising, especially committing armed robberies in our community," the police chief was quoted as saying by ABC news.
"We're going to catch you, and I promise you this: We are going to push hard — I've talked to the district attorney — to seek the fullest prosecution possible available for any crime that is committed.
"Secondly, we're going to urge juries and judges to give you the toughest sentence that you can possibly get," he said in a warning to criminals.
Meanwhile, the Harris County District Attorney's Office issued a press release on Tuesday stating that they have arrested 14 looters in the past two days who "will face stiffer punishments under a Texas law providing heftier penalties during a crisis".
US President Donald Trump visited the affected areas in Texas and called the storm "epic". He first arrived in Corpus Christi, where Hurricane Harvey made its first landfall on Friday. He was accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump.
"This storm, it's epic what happened. But you know what, it happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything," he reportedly said and added that he wanted the relief work to be done "better than ever before".
Hurricane Harvey is said to be the most powerful storm to hit Texas in the past 50 years. It is being compared to Hurricane Katrina that battered New Orleans, Cuba, Louisiana, Alabama, Bahamas, and other parts of the US, making it the costliest hurricane ever for the country.